Natalie Downe

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Lanyrd: from idea to exit - the story of our startup

I recently gave a talk at SmashingConf in Freiberg. I wanted to share the story of our startup Lanyrd and some lessons learned along the way. This article is based on that talk, the abstract of which is:

Natalie launched the first version of Lanyrd.com with her co-founder and husband Simon Willison, while on honeymoon in Casablanca. As the site took off, they realised their side project was destined to become something much bigger.

This talk will tell the story of Lanyrd from a two-week proof of concept to a fully-fledged startup, the lessons learned along the way about building and launching a product, running a company, raising investment and the entrepreneurship journey. This is the talk she wished she heard before getting started! In September 2013, just a week before the SmashingConf 2013, Lanyrd was acquired by Eventbrite.

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Our startup story begins in June of 2010 with our wedding - a rather unconventional beginning to be sure.

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(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckp/21394313 )

Simon and I met in the first week university, 10 years before we got married. In our time together we had already built and launched several side projects.

After the wedding, we quit our jobs, gave up our flat in Brighton and set out on honeymoon overland through Europe and northern Africa. Our intention was to travel as long as we could, whilst earning money from freelance projects on the way.

When we got to Casablanca in Morocco we fell ill with food poisoning.

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It was Ramadan so we couldn’t buy food during the day, and we were too ill to continue travelling so we hired a flat and hacked on a prototype of Lanyrd, an idea I’d had that we had been discussing over a few preceding weeks.

We built something that we wanted to exist. A week later, when we launched the first possible version that worked to our friends in private alpha, we realised it was something other people needed too.

Lanyrd is a social conference directory: we help people and companies find the best conferences and professional events to go to, help them get the most out of them whilst they are there and provide a space to collate slides and videos after the event.

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Reid Hoffman has a great quote:

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

This is particularly important if you are the first to market, or you are doing something significantly different to all the alternatives out there.

Simon and I had worked together on a previous project called wildlifenearyou, which was 14 months of secrecy and constant tweaking before we finally launched. By then, we were sick of it and had gone down many unqualified product-design roads without ever having any user feedback.

I was determined not to make that mistake this time, so we launched after just one week. It wasn’t a very stable version. We launched at dConstruct and got on Techcrunch within days, which brought the site down immediately, but hey, thats a good problem to have right? … It’s a lot harder to scale however, if you are travelling on the road

I put together a Storify of our launch, here are some of the highlights:

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Check out the Storify, I think it emphasises some of the chalenges involved in working on a startup on the road, such as:

  • Bad and intermittent internet, hidden routers,
  • Getting kicked out of restaurants,
  • Flooding the apartment immediately after launch,
  • Ants on the wall,
  • Scaling the site from a taxi,
  • Places locking you in and having to code in the dark.

Looking back on all this now, I have learned that you have to make your own luck. Lanyrd was taking off, we could smell it.

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We could have said, well that was a fun side project, and carried on travelling just as before. We didn’t, we jumped in with both feet and turned it into something real.

Your startup story may not begin with food poisoning or camels but if you have an idea, and you want to go for it, you should seize all opportunities that come your way and make the most of them.

Know where you’re heading, embrace serendipity and you can make your own luck.

After we launched Lanyrd we carried on travelling through Morocco and Egypt overland for another three months with similar challenges as before.

We worked during the hot part of the day and explored in the mornings and early evenings.

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We quickly realised that Lanyrd was not a side project any more, and had the potential to become a proper company. The site was taking up too much of our time, and people already incorrectly assumed that we were working on it full time with a team of people!

We realised this was our great chance to build a startup.

Simon and I were product people, and at the time I was a front-end developer learning design and Simon was a back-end developer learning systems administration and ops.

We had never run a company before and had a lot of gaps in our knowledge.

On the train from Cairo to Aswan I read an essay about Y Combinator, and realised that the solidarity and advice the programme provides could really help us.

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(Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/nataliedowne/5120792726/ )

YC is like a bootcamp for startups. It’s a three month programme out in Silicon Valley, culminating in ‘demo day’ presenting to hundreds of investors and press.

By the way: Y Combinator has nothing to do with Yahoo, it’s actually a computer science pun.

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It’s quite hard to get into, you get a small amount of investment but it’s mainly about the advice and solidarity with other founders. There are weekly dinners with off the record, totally honest talks from founders, CEOs and prominent people in the industry. You can arrange 1-1 meetings with the YC partners at any point and get very valuable advice from each of them.

Part of the application process for YC is a one minute video introducing the founders and the project.

Below is our YC application video from three years ago now. We’ve not shown this to the public before now (I debuted it at SmashingConf).

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This was three years ago - don’t we look young! - so obviously the numbers are really out of date now!

We submitted our application for YC from Luxor - you can hear the honking of Egyptian taxis in the background of the video.

We then flew from Cairo all the way to San Francisco for an interview that was only 10 minutes long.

Thankfully we got in. We moved temporarily to Mountain View in January 2011.

If you do want to do a startup I strongly recommend going through YC. Even if you aren’t planning on applying, I recommend going through the application process anywayIt will help you solidify your thought processes and explanation of your idea and long term vision.

Here are some of the questions which are worth thinking about for your startup:

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The YC experience was very worthwhile, it gave us a huge boost and opened a lot of doors.

One of the first things I learnt during our three months at Y Combinator is how to take advice.

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Often in life, and then particularly when you do a startup you’ll be given multiple pieces of advice on the same subject from lots of different people. We had this at YC with talking to the individual partners, whilst all their advice was valuable it often conflicted with others even on the same subjects.

An immensely useful lesson to learn is how to correlate all the conflicting advice and apply it to your own situation.

For this you need to understand the context of the person providing the advice, what has their journey been and how did they reach the point where they felt this advice applied to you.

This should really have been the first lesson in this article, as I would like you to consider the advice I give you with the same understanding. Try to take what applies to your situation and interpret my experiences as context for the lessons I learnt along the way.

As a source of very useful advice I recommend Paul Graham’s essays on startups - he has been on the inside track of hundreds of startups and his essays are a really useful insight to the aggregate lessons he draws from all of these.

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As a founder your job is to pitch. From the birth of your idea and forever more you need to be able to explain it and convince people of various things continuously.

You will be pitching investors, potential employees, the press, potential customers, people who can introduce you to all of the above and even pitching to each other. You need to get good at pitching.

There is a funny story behind the above photo. It was taken by Robert Scoble at Demo day, and he tweeted about our pitch to 350 thousand people. Which was great. Unfortunately he tweeted the wrong URL:

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He tweeted lanyard.com which of course is the correct spelling of the word ‘Lanyard’. But as vowels are expensive on the internet, we hadn’t yet been able to afford that domain name.

We have since bought the correctly spelled domain.

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At YC, a week before the final demo day, everyone has to do a rehearsal day pitch to the YC partners and the other companies in their batch.

Up until rehearsal day we were advised by the partners not to think about the pitch at all, just concentrate on building the product and demonstrating initial traction.

We had been busy promoting Lanyrd at South by South West, so we ended up preparing our rehearsal pitch the night before. We didn’t know anything about pitching.

We had heard advice from somewhere (which of course at the time we took directly and without question) that you need to make people really empathise with the pain your users felt before your product existed. 

So we included some illustrative photos in our presentation, to help our expected audience of prominent press and investors really feel the pain that speakers and event organisers experienced before they found Lanyrd.

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At the end of our practice presentation Paul Graham said that the only thing he could remember about our pitch was that our product makes people scream.

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(Photo: http://zeno.name/startupschool07/ by Zeno Crivelli)

This is why it is good to have trusted advisors who can tell you that your pitch is really terrible and you should start again from scratch.

YC is the single best pitching school in the world, and the last week before demo day is spent furiously knocking everyone’s pitches into shape. There is a good reason rehearsal day is a full week before demo day!

Our actual pitch deck ended up (with Tom Coates’s illustration skills) looking like this, a lot more professional:

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If when pitching, you are worried about your ideas getting out into the world, don’t be.

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I love this quote by Howard H. Aiken, the primary engineer behind IBM’s Harvard Mark I computer.

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

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One of the most valuable parts of YC (even more so than the advice and investor intros) is the other founders.

Doing a startup is hard. Almost everything you do will be something you’ve never done before. You have to figure out a LOT of stuff for yourself from scratch - most of it having nothing to do with designing products and writing code.

Having 40 other companies who are going through the same thing as you gives you other founders to talk to, commiserate with and lean on for support.

You can’t do this alone. You just can’t. You’ll go mad. You really do need to be surrounded by friends, family and advisors who love you and want you to do well. 

When we left YC in March 2011 we had to make some decisions about where to live. San Francisco is a great place to be but it is hard to hire. Moving back to London was the right choice for us, but it meant that we had to re-establish our circle of trust.

We already had Tom Coates as an advisor from the very beginning, he is a good friend and was also the best man at our wedding. During our time in the states we were lucky enough to get Matt Haughey and Andy Baio on board as advisors too.

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We worked hard to connect with other founders in London to have a local circle of trust with that same honest environment of sharing that we had at YC. Aiming to have conversations that went deeper than just the usual "how are you doing" … "yeah great, we’re killing it, you?" exchanges that happen at public networking events.

Give out as much advice and support as you get. Startups are a pay-it forward economy. The many wonderful people who advised us in our early days would be pleased to see me passing on the things I have learnt.

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At the start of YC, we weren’t even sure if we wanted to raise money. We had heard about a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica and thought we could always go and live there on the cheap, bootstrap Lanyrd and live off our credit cards.

After three months of intensive work on our startup however, it was very clear to us that we actually did need to raise money.

The interesting business models for Lanyrd were only viable if the site had a large user-base. Also, as married co-founders it was important that we grew the team beyond just the two of us working in the living room, to prevent our relationship from being completely dominated by the company.

We ended up raising 1.4 million dollars from some top tier European VCs and some prominent angel investors.

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Since fundraising is so time consuming, standard advice is to raise enough money that you won’t run out for at least 18 months. This is what people mean when they talk about their “runway”. 

In actual fact, having money for 18 months means that you don’t have to think about fundraising for 12 months - if you’re going to need more, you’ll need six months to make sure you raise before your out-of-money date.

Early money is the most expensive in terms of the equity you give away. The goal of the fundraising process should be to raise enough to get to the next milestone, increase your valuation and be able to raise more money for less equity the next time. If you need to raise money, raise quickly, as soon as possible get back to building the product and company.

Investors are good for a lot more than just money. In our case, we were first-time entrepreneurs - there’s a LOT we didn’t know about running a startup. We deliberately went for investors who could offer us advice, support and introductions.

We made sure our lead investors were in London so we would have good access to them. We also made sure our angel investors were people who could offer skills and knowledge that we didn’t have.

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When you encounter an investor in the wild, your goal should be to get a meeting. At events like demo day you need to have your calendar with you at all times, so you can book meetings on the spot if an investor shows any interest at all.

We learnt this from another team half way through demo day, when we’d just been collecting email addresses and they had a full week of meetings booked already!

To get the meeting, you’ll need an elevator pitch. This is a fifteen second description of your company, designed to pique their interest. You should be able to give this at the drop of a hat. Traditionally, it should be short enough to explain your product when you have an investor trapped on an elevator ride with you.

Next, you’ll need an executive summary. This is three or four paragraphs of text which briefly describes your startup, the problem you are solving, your expertise and how much you are raising.

You’ll mainly use this in emails to investors, and in emails to people who have offered to introduce you to investors.

You’ll also need a pitch deck. This is a dozen slides explaining your product, your team, your expected market size and hinting at your revenue model.

Few investors will ask you to present this in person, but they may ask for it immediately after a meeting so they can email it to their colleagues. We also found it was useful to have around in meetings so we could refer to individual slides.

For the meeting itself you need to be ready to answer common questions. Write yourself a list and rehearse the answers before meetings. Make sure to actually listen in the meeting though and answer the questions they actually ask you.

Use the examples in the YC application form and add your own as they come up. Some of the ones that we found interesting were:

  • Where do you see your company in five years time?
  • What’s your Total Addressable Market? This is the maximum revenue flowing through the industry you are targeting. It’s a frustrating one to answer (we spent quite a while digging around in industry reports), but essentially they want to be reassured that this is a big opportunity. Someone once told us that the answer to this question is ALWAYS a billion dollars and that your company will get ten percent of it. It’s up to you to figure out the calculation to get there.
  • How are you going to spend the money? This shows that you’ve actually thought about the size of your raise rather than just taking a wild stab in the dark.

The world of investors functions on introductions. Sure, you can stalk an investor and approach them cold but if you have a warm introduction from someone who knows both of you you’ll find it a lot easier to both get a meeting and start it off on a good footing.

The best introductions are from founders and other investors. Once we’d lined up our initial investors they promptly introduced us to a whole bunch of people, some of whom eventually became angel investors in our round.

At the end of the meeting, ask them for the money! It took us quite a few meetings to get the hang of this. If they’re not going to invest, ask them what it would take to convince them. 

Follow this up with “is there anyone you can introduce us to who you think might be a good fit for us?”. If the meeting went well, they’ll be happy to introduce you to other investors. And if the meeting went really well they might drag their heels because they want you all to themselves! 

Investors aren’t very good at saying no. Paul Graham says that at the end of a meeting, look at your hands, if there is no term sheet or check then it’s a no. This may be the case, but being politely persistent is a good tactic too. Paul has lots of great essays packed full of solid gold advice on fundraising.

You’ll also need the phone number of a really good lawyer, ready for you to call if you get a term sheet.

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Good legal advice is really valuable. When you’re raising money or going through an acquisition process you are playing a game where everyone else knows the rules and you don’t.

The difference between the two situations is that when you are raising money you can ask every other founder you know for advice, but with an acquisition you can’t - it has to be a secret, so other than your co-founder you have to rely on advice from your investors, advisors and people you are paying. 

A great lawyer, such as Dale Huxford from Orrick, can help support you, translate the legalese and tell you what terms are standard and what terms aren’t.

This will help level the playing field given that you are up in front of professional negotiators with a new set of etiquette rules!

Since you don’t know what you’re doing, stick to being enthusiastic and honest.

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Paul Graham says:

"The way to seem most formidable as an inexperienced founder is to stick to the truth."

This advice worked for us! In fact, we ended up using it for hiring, sales and negotiating our acquisition as well.

If, like us, you’re not naturally sneaky people, play to your strengths!

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With the money in the bank, we had to switch modes. We moved from building the product to building the machine that builds the product. This meant hiring a team and designing a company.

We decided it was important to build a company that we would want to work for ourselves.

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Something that worked really well for us was hiring from our network. One of the reasons we moved back to London was to tap in to the enormous number of talented people we knew there.

If you’re new to hiring, the safest thing is to hire people that you or people you know have worked with.

Hire people who are super talented, that you want to work with and perhaps who are frustrated with their current job. The biggest benefit any startup can offer is the opportunity to move fast and make a difference.

If you ever want to do a startup in the future, start building a network of talented people now. 

Remember, hiring for cultural fit and enthusiasm for your product is just as important as hiring for the skillset you need.

Keep space in your budget for the awesome person who you don’t yet need so you can snap them up when they become available.

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We hired a great team, but we were still small - and with grand multi-device ambitions we needed tools that would help us punch above our weight.

From the very start, I built Lanyrd’s front-end to be responsive and based around reusable front-end components. It’s a complex site with a lot of different pages, and I wanted to be able to reuse as much of my design work and CSS as possible.

A technique I’ve been using for quite a while is building CSS systems, rather than individual pages. The site consists of fluid grid layout constructs such as primary and secondary columns, and reusable components which can be placed interchangeably in different constructs. The components themselves don’t have widths set on them, and so adapt to fill their containing space.

We use something that I call a pattern portfolio. This is one really long page demonstrating every possible component and layout construct.

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It acts as a catalogue of these components, documenting their use for the team while also providing a test suite for the front end of the site. Since this test suite is a single, very long page it can be used for regression testing and to quickly test every component in a new browser or at different screen widths - particularly useful for the myriad of mobile devices out there.

The long portfolio page is actually made up of smaller include files, which can be viewed and developed in isolation.

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We invested a lot of time in our one click deployment system (by we I mainly mean Simon, Tom and Andrew here). If you want to move fast and iterate, it’s vital that deploying the site is quick and easy and that anyone on the team can do it.

In fact, part of our on-boarding process even for non-technical hires is for them to deploy a change to the live site on their first day, even if it is just a typo fix.

Our company culture is deliberately very supportive if mistakes are made and accidentally deployed - after all, a fix is just a quick deploy away.

We use git for version tracking, and keep master deployable at all times.

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Since we mainly work on master, we needed a way to work on and deploy features that weren’t necessarily ready for the public yet.

Feature flags let us turn features on and off for individual users, groups of users or particular events. We use these all over the site, for everything from hiding incomplete features to managing premium features for our paying customers. They also make it easy to turn on features for beta testers or as previews for members of the press.

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Our approach to mobile is also rooted in maintainability and enabling a quick turn around by a small team.

Simon and I built the first version of our mobile app in four weeks, mainly from Réunion and Australia, also after a bout of food poisoning.

The chap above with the huge collection of black rectangles on his desk is Tom Insam, one of our earliest hires who later became our CTO.

On Tom’s first day at Lanyrd he found our iPhone app on our GitHub, checked it out and immediately fixed all of our crashing bugs. Over time he completely re-architected the app to have a UI that is driven entirely from the server and doesn’t need to go through the various app stores to release changes.

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In addition to our native iPhone app, we also built a Mobile Web version providing the exact same functionality. This was initially developed by Jake Archibald.

Jake used HTML5 AppCache and Offline Storage to store event information offline, and ensured the app worked across dozens of mobile browsers on different devices. The mobile web app uses progressive enhancement, so supported browsers get fancy JavaScript transitions and offline storage, while older devices fall back on server-side rendering of the same templates and work without any JavaScript at all.

Both our native iPhone, Android and Mobile Web apps now implement the same capabilities platform, which allows us to write new features once and immediately deploy them across all devices without needing to publish a new version through the respective app stores.

One of the many neat things about having a Mobile Web app is you can embed it in an iframe right there on the promotion page, so people can try it out directly.

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We did a big press push around our m.lanyrd.com release, and I learned a valuable lesson about working with the press: Always take the screenshots for them!

An otherwise really positive article was slightly marred by the reporter taking a screenshot of our brand new mobile site on their iPad in Landscape mode.

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Based on this experience, we learnt the importance of having a good press pack.

We make the press pack available at a URL for the journalist’s convenience, often with a password protecting it. Here are some of the things we include:

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The embargo time is the point at which it is okay for the journalist to publish their story. It is important to make this big and obvious so that you don’t end up with a story being published accidentally early, perhaps even before you’ve launched the product - this has actually happened to us in the past. Even if you are running an exclusive with one journalist it is still useful to put the launch time.

summary of the story - the traditional press release, often with context for the wider world. You’ll get better coverage if the journalist can see how your story fits into trends and patterns in the industry.

For example we got some great coverage from our m.lanyrd.com launch by emphasising the clever technology and techniques behind it’s development.

Journalists love numbers. You can make it easy for them to add colour to an article by revealing lots of numbers and stats and letting them pick the ones they like.

Giving them some quotes to choose from is a good idea too.

If this isn’t enough colour for the journalist, or they wish to present a particular angle and need more information, we provide our contact details for them to get in touch.

Often when we email our press contacts individually, we will suggest a tailored angle for them and their publication. If you can tie the story to something the journalist wrote about you or the industry before then that helps them out and if you can confirm predictions they made previously then you can make them look really smart, which they like.

The screenshots related to the launch are essential. It is also worth linking to your primary product press pack too, with generic product screenshots and background information on the company and the product outside of the specific launch.

We have had instances in the past where journalists have looked at the press pack and written an article as if the entire product was this one release. Context is important.

High res logos are also really important. When we first launched we didn’t do press packs and we didn’t have our logo anywhere easily reference-able. Journalists were doing “save as image” on our logo element in the top left of the page, which of course looked terrible against any other background and especially when scaled up.

Don’t forget to link to the product, it is worth spelling out the link in full too as you really really don’t wan’t this to be manually copied and mis-spelled.

This is the press pack we made for our LinkedIn launch. We got some great press around this in November 2012.

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We had been working on an overhaul of our login system in the background for a little while. When we heard LinkedIn were closing their events product and taking all the events offline, we dropped everything and ran towards getting login with LinkedIn launched.

When we first launched Lanyrd and for the first couple years we only offered log in with Twitter, we didn’t have our own login system. This worked great for bootstrapping the community early on but as the site evolved there was some pushback by people who wanted to use Lanyrd and not Twitter, actually quite common in professional events and conferences it turns out.

Three weeks later, when LinkedIn shut their doors to events, we were right there ready as an alternative with LinkedIn login as well as log in with username and passwords. We were able to piggy-back on this wider press story with an embargo sent to journalists who were already covering the LinkedIn announcement.

Some of the journalists we talked to weren’t previously aware of LinkedIn’s event shutdown announcement and heard about it for the first time from us.

Wherever possible make the story bigger than yourself. Context is key.

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(Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/15545136@N06/5891705931/ )

As time goes on, you’ll get wrapped up in your product and it will feel like a proper company for a while. But you are not a proper company yet, for one thing you aren’t making any money.

When you have 18 months of runway in the bank it feels like forever. When you have 11 months in the bank it feels like your company is about to die. That gives you just seven months of blissful ignorance.

Never stop looking at your bank account, 1.4 million dollars seems like a lot but it really isn’t when you are paying salaries for a team. Keep an eye on your out of money date, do your own payroll and really feel how fast you are spending that money.

Think about the long term at the same time as iterating on your product.

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At our board meeting just before Christmas last year we presented our board with our proposed ways to generate revenue.

We had an elaborate plan involving several products targeting quite a few different groups of users, that intertwined one-off payments and subscriptions and a complex relationship between many different tiers of pricing and three different types of upgrade vouchers!

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Our board rightfully said this was nuts. This was 7 different products. Pick one of them and do that.

We worked through Christmas to pick one, refine it and make a plan.

We chose Lanyrd Pro for teams, an idea we had been working towards since the beginning of Lanyrd’s history.

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Lanyrd Pro is aimed at companies that speak at or sponsor multiple events a year. It is a suite of tools to help companies and teams collaborate on their event strategy, organise and communicate around events as well as publicise their event involvement. This helps them get credit for events they have sponsored and organised long after the event is over and provides tools for measuring the effectiveness of events they participate in.

This was the revenue theory we chose: we then worked to prove this theory.

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Which we believe we did.

We worked on Lanyrd Pro for three months, and launched with some big brand name customers including Heroku, Facebook and GitHub.

We turned some decent revenue too.

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For this we had to teach ourselves sales.

Sales was another thing that was very different from anything we had done before.

We worked closely with some of our launch customers to build a product they wanted to pay real money for. We iterated this over several companies during the three months and got to a point where we had built a product that pretty much sold itself once we were able to speak to the right person in the company.

We discovered this was called Business to Business or Enterprise sales.

We bought lots of books on this, which we didn’t have time to read. We found an a friend of ours, James Duncan who was an engineer that had become a respected enterprise salesperson. He worked with us for a few weeks on commission, kickstarting our sales process and teaching us how to sell.

Coming from an engineering background James knew how to explain the totally foreign world of sales that he had learnt, to us.

Before we spoke to James and several other similar engineer-turned-salesperson friends of ours we didn’t know what we needed to learn.

So we set up a sales funnel, and used Salesforce briefly to learn the vocabulary before settling on a more lightweight combination of Trello, Google Docs and Highrise.

We started to work double days to deal with timezone complications. We even bought Simon a suit!

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When you’re running a startup you have to juggle a lot of things at once. One of the things we were doing at the same time as working on Lanyrd Pro was starting to raise our next round of funding.

We were advised that a sensible course of action when raising a Series A round is to also look at your other strategic options.

We’d had enquiries about acquisitions before, none of which appealed because they were mainly interested in the team and were not a good home for us as they would have meant shutting down the product.

When the conversations started with Eventbrite it quickly became clear that this would be a very different kind of partnership.

Our vision for improving events has always been about making events better — for attendees, organisers, speakers and now companies.

Eventbrite’s vision sat well with ours, with an even wider goal: To help organisers of any size create, promote and sell tickets or registrations to events.

We also really liked the people at Eventbrite and they use the same technology stack as us, opening up lots of opportunities for integrations between the two products.

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One piece of advice we got whilst we were at YC is that if an acquisition is on the table, you still have to run the company as if it could fall through at any moment, because these things usually do.

It’s all about balancing your options.

Any time you are fundraising is a good time to explore other options at the same time, because raising more money means more dilution and a lot more risk.

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(Photo http://www.volkerballueder.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/balance.jpg )

Interesting acquisition conversations happen with people at companies you have known and built up relationships with over several years.

Don’t let building these relationships distract you from your startup, but do know that your professional network is important for all sorts of interesting options.

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We didn’t create Lanyrd with the intention to sell. We spent three years as startup founders learning all these lessons and many more along the way.

We believe selling Lanyrd was the right decision. We announced the deal a few weeks ago, and we are confident that with Eventbrite’s help Lanyrd will be better than before.

We’re really looking forward to what we can do in the future working with the fantastic team at Eventbrite.

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One huge lesson that doesn’t fit anywhere specific in our story is to learn to trust your gut instinct. Doing a startup for the first time means you often don’t have anything else to go on other than what feels right.

Instinct is just your brain’s way of telling you the conclusion to a complex, subtle and often subconscious thought process that it doesn’t have time to bother you with.

As humans we notice things constantly, and most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing it. As we get older we build this really powerful internal pattern matching prediction machine that delivers to us conclusions by way of “feeling right” or “uneasy” - but our conscious mind isn’t sure why.

From the very beginning of Lanyrd right up to today, any time I have not trusted my gut and tried to reason my way to another decision, my initial feelings have been proved right in hindsight. There may be some positive confirmation bias here but I firmly believe my gut instinct has been more often right than wrong for reasons I can’t explain.

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It is not easy. It may well not be the right path for you. If you choose to do a startup make sure you know the risks and you are doing it for the right reasons.

Build something you care about.
Build something that makes peoples lives better.
Build something that will motivate you against all odds.

Embrace serendipity. Grab all the opportunities you can, work harder than you have ever worked, make your own luck but do look after yourself first. Eat right, sleep decent hours and try to get as much of a work / life balance as you can.

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Doing a startup is really really hard work all the way through. It is not a job suitable for everyone, and that’s okay.

Having a circle of trust and trusting my instincts were important throughout my journey.

YC gave us the right grounding and helped us along the way the whole way through.

If you think a startup is for you, I would recommend going through YC. Applications are now open for the Winter 2014 class.

Best of luck!

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    So cool.
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